That ambitious Braga agenda
How'd we do? (56)
In case you missed our last post, we’ve been in Braga since Wednesday. When we visited back in October, we really liked what we saw here and figured it’s worth investigating as a potential place to end up after our lease in Lisbon expires (April 2024). And if we’re considering it as a place to live, we figured we needed to go in the middle of winter. So, here we are.
We had a lot on the itinerary:
meet with a real estate agent to get the lay of the land
board game night at a local board game café
crashing the monthly gathering of Braga expats
football game (spur-of-the-moment ticket purchase) FC Braga v Boavista
church in Porto on Sunday at 17h
shopping and wandering about town
sampling area restaurants
How’d it work out? Let’s take a look.
Meet with a real estate agent
Our appointment was on Thursday at 14h30. We talked for about an hour about market conditions. We agreed to meet the following day for him to show us a couple of apartments just outside the city center that are being built right now.
Turns out he hadn’t heard us very well when we said we wanted to live in a place that feels like a European city and has old world charm. Plus, his idea of just outside the city center seems to mean quite a hike and in the midst of soulless apartment complexes.
Fortunately, we have plenty of time.
Board game night
We put up a post on a Facebook group for Braga expats and got quite a few responses there. The big question we had when planning was where to have it. We’d hoped to find a restaurant/café that wouldn’t mind us taking over an indeterminant number of tables for an unspecified length of time. That’s a tough enough concept to explain in English, much less in the Portuguese we figured we’d need to use when actually contacting the places. Then we found Drawstep - Games and Drinks. The name says it all. They have a library of games to play, they sell games (and drinks), and they host a variety of events from board game nights to various flavors of card competitions (Magic, Flesh and Blood, et al). Scott sent an email in English, received a quick reply in the same language and got all the info he needed. Problem solved.
Thursday evening at 18h30 rolled around and six people showed up. They were unfamiliar with the more modern games we prefer but willing to learn. We played two rounds of Codenames and Drawstep’s copy of Dixit. The group broke up around 21h30. People seemed to enjoy themselves and were happy we’d organized the event.
Monthly gathering of Braga expats
The same Facebook group of Braga expats we’d used to advertise the game night also has a get-together on the second Saturday of each month. We’d timed this visit here so we could attend. The venue was just on the other side of the garden our Airbnb looks over so it was an easy walk.
At the peak, there looked to be at least 30 people in attendance. Multiple sources said that was a very low number - three times as many will often show, we were told. It was chilly and Pacific-Northwest-rainy, which probably kept attendance down. Nonetheless, we met some interesting people, made some good connections, and were surprised at the number of times someone asked us if we were the ones who’d organized the board game night. People seemed grateful we’d put it together even if it’s not their preferred form of entertainment.
There are a significant number of expats here in Braga most of whom were very nice and eager to help others make the transition.
Saturday evening came and Amy was not feeling well enough to leave the bnb. It was to be our first-ever football match and we’d wanted to experience it together. After a long discussion, we agreed Scott would go by himself.
It was an evening of surprises on many levels, enough so that it will merit an entire post by itself. Suffice to say here, though, that it was a generally family-friendly environment and quite fun. And, at 15€ a ticket, it’s reasonably affordable. The stadium is gorgeous and clean, and the team is having quite a season this year.
This is going to be one of our biggest sticking points about Braga. After a lot of Googling, we are unable to find an English-speaking, non-denominational Christian church that’s less than 90 minutes from here. That’s just too far to go. Compounding that is the services at the place we’d choose begin at 17h. We wouldn’t get home much before 20h (8 PM) at the earliest and we don’t think that’s feasible.
Our church in Lisbon has been a community for us. We eat with people both before and after Sunday morning services and we went there on both Christmas and New Year’s Eve last month. It made an emotionally challenging week a bit easier to bear. Giving that up would be hard.
Shopping and restaurants
The most surprising thing about shopping is how all the shops and most of the restaurants have their doors open. Despite the temps being low 50s and very raw. We can’t imagine stripping down to our underthings to try on a pair of jeans in those conditions. Presumably the mall is heated.
We did not do a good job on getting to restaurants this trip. We started with mediocre pizza. Our second meal out was at a pretty lousy Italian place in the very touristy area. We had spectacular soup at a Thai restaurant, but the two entrees were merely meh. We’ve been to two hole in wall/mall (Braga seems to specialize in doorways that turn into long quasi-malls) vegan joints. At each we (and by “we,” we mean Scott) only had the desserts but there was a prato do dia at at least one of them. We did have a pretty awesome burger and fries, although the veggie patty was completely forgettable. The burger place does have two other types of vegetarian patties, though, so that might yield fruit. Our final meal was at an excellent vegetarian place. The best food we had in Braga this trip was vegetarian/vegan.
We left Lisbon grumbling about not wanting to leave our dog, friends, and city. We walked off the train in Braga and both went, “Ahhhh,” instantly remembering why we’d felt so at home here in October.
We still have a lot of work to do. It’s been a tough slog to build a network of doctors in Lisbon. Walking away from that as it’s starting to stabilize would be rough.
We’d read before we moved about how it often feels colder in the winter inside Portuguese buildings than it does outside. We experienced that for the first time this weekend. In fact, we got cold quite a bit. Granted, we didn’t bring our warmest coats because the forecast said it wouldn’t really dip below 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit), but we would need to be much more aware of the weather here than we have in Lisbon. Neither of us does well in the cold anymore.
It’s less hilly here than Lisbon, and we love the well-tended public gardens (there are a few tulips and roses blooming right now), open spaces, fruit trees laden with oranges . . . things we don’t have down south.
The sidewalks are immaculate despite the fact that garbage cans are few and far between. (Yes, Scott is worried about where to put the dog poop. Again.) And so many buildings are so old and interesting to look at.
In short, neither city is perfect and both have amazing virtues. We probably can't go too wrong either way. It’s a good place to be.
We’ll come back to Braga in a few months and see how it goes.
That’s all for now.
Love from Braga,
Scott & Amy
Ok, very interesting. Here's my two cents, for what it's worth. You need good doctors and a good church, which you have found in Lisbon, ditto good friends. Have you explored the suburbs around Lisbon to see if you can find someplace you like, esp. since so far you don't like the real estate listings in Braga that you have found? My experience is that it's easier to live around the services you need on a day to day basis, and visit the places you like on weekends and holidays. I would take all the time you need making a big decision like this. It's much easier to leave a rental than to sell a house. Plus, you love your apartment. Can you find one similar, but bigger, to buy? You still have a lot to explore in Portugal, so please take your time making a big commitment. Not a sermon, just a thought. Love you. Phyl
Braga seems to have an allure for you both. Luckily, you have time to investigate and visit often before making any big decisions.
So enjoyed the photos! That garden looks to be amazing in a month or so!